Understanding Resistance In Relationships

“People don’t resist change. They resist being changed.”
~Peter Senge

“Where there is power, there is resistance.”
~Michael Foucault (1926-1984)

Whether we like it or not resistance is everywhere, within our turning world by friction, within our relationships in the tugging to and fro of interaction, and even within our minds and hearts when we perceive things through our filters of judgment. Resistance is not always a bad thing. Indeed, it is often a good thing, through the exercise of discernment.

Resistance is actually a very good thing where there is a power imbalance; one that is being taken advantage of, for example, within domestic violence situations where a man bullies his wife.


The reason for resistance is balance. People don’t subvert good things just because they are trying to be painful; they somehow see a power imbalance. It’s good to understand this. It helps us redeem compassion.

When we can see from the other person’s perspective, trying to understand their resistance, we have a much better chance of understanding and responding in effective ways. Likewise, we would want another person to understand us and respond this way in accord with our resistance. When we feel cornered we are never at our best.

When we can see that resistance is an appropriate response given a person’s perception, and their need to ensure balance is restored, we are positioned to receive God’s grace by our calm and accepting response.

Grace is the response needed in the presence of resistance.


Grace is a gift to the situation involving resistance; either theirs or ours.

Having reached an understanding regarding the power imbalance, we can forgive that person their resistance on the spot, just as we can receive God’s forgiveness ourselves when we are resistant.

The moment we release the pressure of requiring others to let go of their resistance is the moment people are free to be convinced (or not) that the situation is more just than they initially realised. Grace allows space.

Furthermore, when we are the resistant ones, yet we don’t place ourselves under the pressure of the judgment, we enjoy the space to consider alternatives of thought. Perhaps the resistance may not be warranted. At least to have that in mind is a blessing. Then God may soften our hearts.


Resistance is normal to life, because it is about restoring balance. When we allow people their resistance, not condemning them for it, we give them space to make up their own minds with all the time they need.

© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Steve Wickham is a Registered Safety Practitioner and holds Degrees in Science, Divinity, and Counselling. Steve writes at: http://epitemnein-epitomic.blogspot.com.au/ and http://tribework.blogspot.com.au/

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